New Zealand soprano Ana James
Posted on 5 May 2008
New Zealand soprano Ana James(the first recipient of a Kiri Te Kanawa Foundation grant)is based in London and provides further comment following on from the release of the NZ Singers Taking Flight report ...
Basically I thought Jenny's report was accurate in that I also feel NZ is severely lacking in both language and vocal coaching. I can now look back in hindsight and say that as a young singer venturing to New York to study I had little idea what I was about to embark on or the amount of sheer hard work it takes to be a professional singer. NZ is a very isolated country and I really felt that when I moved away. When I moved overseas to study my languages were appalling. I think I had learnt the pronunciation mainly from recordings which I now know can be full of errors. I was embarrassed about my lack of languages but I have a good ear and learn quickly so my language coaches in NY recovered from their initial shock fairly quickly!! In New York I was so homesick for the first year there I don't think I was able to make full use of my opportunities (I was lucky enough to have the support of the Patricia Pratt Scholarship which covered ALL my fees and expenses!) My second year was better as I was over the shock of realising I was just another soprano in a city of thousands. Studying in London was much better for me personally and best of all it is close to Europe so the opportunities of learning languages in the country of origin is not a problem. Many Australasian singers who I studied with in London and NY have already fallen of the radar. Its a very tough career. And for sopranos, even tougher! Now, opera companies want to cast slim healthy singers. I think this can only be a good thing as it is unhealthy to be over your ideal weight and not to take exercise in any case. However, at the other end of the spectrum, I know of several anorexic singers, which I am sure was been unheard of 20 years ago! This is a very sad situation because it can and does affect the voice, as well as weakens the body and mind. As a soprano I feel huge pressure to stay slim,toned, fit, and look as good as possible at all times. There will always be a slimmer, better soprano out there ready to take a job!!! I work out at the gym, do pilates, yoga at least three times a week (when at home!) and I eat healthily (no carbohydrates after 5pm).
If a young singer from NZ asked me what they could do to make the transition from NZ to overseas study I would say do your research about teachers - there are many bad ones in the UK! I work with Lillian Watson and Paul Farringdon. They are a good combination - Paul is a vocal technician, Lillian can teach alot about interpretation and vocal style as well as technique, as she knows my repertoire inside out. The only other fine teacher I know of in the UK is Enid Hartle, a pupil of Vera Rozsa. A positive thought to remember is a sheer amount of natural operatic talent NZ has to offer. It is unusual for a small country obsessed with sport!